Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024549, Wed, 4 Sep 2013 17:51:30 -0300

Re: Esmeralda and Her Parandrus in LATH
Samuel Schuman: In the list of "Other Books by the Narrator" in LATH, under "In English" are several easily identifiable reflections of VN titles, with dates. These are: "See under Real, 1939" (The Real Life of Seb. Knight); then "Esmeralda and Her Parandrus, 1941"; "Dr. Olga Repnin, 1946" (Pnin); "Exile from Mayda, 1947" (Pale Fire); "A Kingdom by the Sea, 1962" (Lolita); and "Ardis, 1970" (Ada) In terms of the order of composition, "Esmeralda and her Parandrus" should be "Bend Sinister." I think it is. Esmeralda is the gypsy maiden heroine of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame;" a "Parandrus" is a mythical beast, capable of changing the color of its coat. In some ways, the naive but good-hearted Esmeralda, who comes to a bad end, is like Krug; Paduk is bestial and changeable [ ]

Jansy Mello: While I found only a few entries related to the "Parandrus" (more often described as a shape-shifter instead of having the chameleonic ability to change colors)*, there's one article by Omry Ronen about HISTORICAL MODERNISM, ARTISTIC INNOVATION AND MYTH-MAKING IN VLADIMIR NABOKOV'S SYSTEM OF VALUE JUDGEMENTS that, judging from the summary online, may interest you - also because he suggests a connection with Bend Sinister, by associating Nabokov's rejection of a "forced mythological attitude" to "pointless paronomasia...in the same terms as Max Muller had applied to mythology, 'an illness of language'." Differently from you he offers a new reference to understand "Esmeralda" (he connects to Thomas Mann's "Doctor Faustus").
So we may glean that "Nabokov's attitude toward modernism can be reconstructed on the basis of his own critical statements, the tastes of some of his characters, and his choice of specimens for critical study and translation, and models for creative emulation [ ] Nabokov's ultimate opinion on the individual representatives and currents of new Russian literature is expressed in the metaliterary passages of Ada and Look at the Harlequins!, rather than in The Gift.
In Look at the Harlequins!, this is facilitated by blending or "ligaturing" of Russian and Anglo-American writers: Bunin and Thornton Wilder, or Merezhkovskij and Faulkner.[ ] Of the heritage of modernism, he rejected and consistently parodied and compromised in his own art not merely some of its specific artistic errors, but above all the general and typical fault of its approach to certain types of subject matter, most significantly, the forced mythological attitude toward poetic imagery, narrative motifs, and thematic inventory. [ ] He expressed his rejection of its pointless paronomasia, a contagious disease in the world of words, in his introduction to Bend Sinister in the same terms as Max Müller had applied to mythology, "an illness of language".// Nabokov's contempt for the myth of the 20th century was both artistic and moral. He found tasteless Thomas Mann's image of Hetaera esmeralda in Doctor Faustus as part of Mann's myth of the diabolic nature of modernism, based on false racial and aesthetic presuppositions (cf. Lines Written in Oregon and the title of Vadim Vadimovich's novel in Look at the Harlequins!: Esmeralda and her Parandrus). The fallacy of the Jungian psychology as applied to literary criticism by Maud Bodkin in her once popular book appears to be spoofed in Pale Fire, especially in the "white fountain/white mountain" episode, as well as in the names of characters (aunt Maud, Dr. Botkin).Most consistently Nabokov de-mythologized the most universal of mythological themes, the theme of death, as he detached the problem of immortality from the problem of the existence of gods, "including the big G".

* - wikipedia: Parandrus is an animal from Medieval bestiaries. They were ox-sized, long-haired, with antlers and cloven hooves, but could change their shape at will

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